Friday Fun Facts - 6/15/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) The photo above shows a bottle of L'Heure Bleue perfume, by Guerlain.
I picked up the bottle of L'Heure Bleu and poured a generous puddle into the palm of my hand. Rubbing my hands briskly together before the scent could evaporate, I smoothed them rapidly through my hair. I poured another dollop onto my hairbrush and swept the curls back behind my ears with it.

Well. That was rather better, I thought, turning my head from side to side to examine the results in the speckled looking glass. The moisture had dissipated the static electricity in my hair, so that it floated in heavy, shining waves about my face. And the evaporating alcohol had left behind a very pleasant scent. Frank would like that, I thought. L'Heure Bleu was his favorite.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A New Beginning". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
L'Heure Bleue perfume was first introduced in 1912, so this year marks its 100th anniversary.  I don't normally wear perfume and I have no personal experience with this particular fragrance, but here are some customer reviews (both pro and con) to give you an idea of what it's like.  Have any of you ever tried it, and if so, what did you think?

(By the way, if you're wondering about the spelling of the perfume's name in the passage quoted above ("L'Heure Bleu" instead of "L'Heure Bleue"), that appears to be an error that was never caught by the copy-editor.  Diana readily admits that she doesn't speak French.  <g>  And when OUTLANDER was first published, in 1991, long before Google and Wikipedia, it was much more difficult to verify things like that. Maybe this is something that will eventually be added to the Errata list in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume II.)

Giant Puffball Mushroom

2) I had never heard of a puffball mushroom (pictured above; click on the photo for a bigger view) before I read the following passage from VOYAGER, where Jamie is talking to a very pregnant Jenny.
To distract both of them, he nodded at Jenny’s stomach.

“How close is it?” he asked, frowning at her swollen midsection. “Ye look like a puffball mushroom—one touch, and poof!” He flicked his fingers wide in illustration.

“Oh, aye? Well, and I could wish it was as easy as poof.” She arched her back, rubbing at the small of it, and making her belly protrude in an alarming fashion. He pressed back against the wall, to give it room.

“As for when, anytime, I expect. No telling for sure.” She picked up the cup and measured out the flour; precious little left in the bag, he noted with some grimness.

“Send up to the cave when it starts,” he said suddenly. “I’ll come down, Redcoats or no."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 5, "To Us A Child Is Given". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia, giant puffball mushrooms can grow up to 28 inches in diameter (!)

I had no idea that any variety of mushroom grew to such an immense size.  Jamie's right, it really is an apt metaphor for a pregnant woman's belly.

Here are some more puffball facts if you're interested.

3) The gentleman shown above is wearing a banyan -- a loose dressing-gown. Lord John Grey often wears a banyan in the evenings at home. (Portrait of Nicholas Boylston, painted by John Singleton Copley, 1767)

Banyan 1750-1775

Here's another example of a banyan, circa 1750-1775, from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Click on the photo for a larger view.
Having briskly stripped his master and draped him in a clean nightshirt, he went to retrieve Grey’s banyan, which had been hung to warm on the fire screen. He held this ready, peering closely at Grey in concern.

“You look like…” he said, and trailed off, shaking his head as though the prospect before him was too frightful for words. This matched Grey’s own impression of the situation, but he was too exhausted to say so, and merely nodded, turning to thrust his arms into the comforting sleeves.

"Go to bed, Tom,” he managed to say. “Don’t wake me in the morning. I plan to be dead.”

(From "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", Part II, in LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's more about the history of banyans.  I must say, they certainly look comfortable!

4) As you can see from the photo above, porcupines' front teeth really are orange, just as Jamie described them in his letter to Jenny in DRUMS:
Your son sends his Most Affectionate Regards, and begs to be Remembered to his Father, Brothers and Sisters. He bids you tell Matthew and Henry that he sends them the Encloased Object, which is the preserved Skull of an animal called Porpentine by Reason of its Prodigious Spines (though it is not at all like the small Hedge-creepie which you will know by that name, being much Greater in Size and Dwelling in the Treetops, where it Feasts upon the tender shoots). Tell Matthew and Henry that I do not know why the Teeth are orange. No Doubt the animal finds it Decorative.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Lallybroch". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The picture above shows a porcupine's skull, like the one Jamie sent to Lallybroch for Henry and Matthew.  Click on the photo for a bigger view. You can see more porcupine skull pictures here.

Why do they have orange teeth? According to this site, "Like all other rodents, porcupines have ever-growing incisors. The enamel on the front of the incisors is stained orange by iron salts that also serve to strengthen the tooth."

Why does Jamie refer to the creature as a "porpentine"? It turns out that "porpentine" is an archaic word for porcupine. You may recall the reference in Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5:
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.
Bonus trivia question: There is a reference to a "fretful porpentine" in the OUTLANDER books. Do you remember who said it, and under what circumstances?

WARNING! The next item contains SPOILERS for THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. If you haven't finished the book, you may want to skip this one. (For more about THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, look here.)

Iroquois War Club

5) This is an Iroquois war club.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) Diana Gabaldon said on Compuserve that the one Siverly used on Jamie in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER "probably looked a lot like this."
The first thing he saw was not Siverly's body, but the weapon. It was the same odd, knob-headed club with which Siverly had attacked him, and he crossed himself at the sight, with a peculiar feeling that was not satisfaction but more awe at God's sense of justice.

Grey had recognized the thing from his description; had told him it was a war club, a weapon made by the Iroquois. Hardwood, and, in the right hands, a very deadly thing. Evidently, Siverly had run into someone who knew how to employ it--the knob at the end was thick with blood and hair, and...His eye tracked across the wide swath of blood that lay smeared over the floor of the summerhouse and came to rest on an object that he knew must be Siverly's head, only because it could be nothing else.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Clishmaclaver". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It certainly looks like a vicious thing, doesn't it?

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


Sara said...

I love your Fun Facts----I always wonder how you choose what to include.

My mom used L'Heure Bleue when I was young. I still remember it as one of the most beautiful scents ever though I haven't seen or smelled it in years.

Julia Lammert said...


Another enlightening and interesting addition. As always, thank you for sharing. Your FFF make my Fridays!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful as usual. Another reason to look forward to Friday! Thank you!!

knmom26 said...

"Fretful porcupine" was what Claire told Jamie he looked like after startling him awake after she shouted "Horrocks!" in Chapter 23 of Outlander, "Return to Leoch." Thank you for another interesting installment!

Gwen Buchanan said...

Hi, Thanks for linking over to my DESIDERATUM blog... and my Porcupine post.... we have lots of porcupines here in Canada. cheers, Gwen Buchanan

Christiane said...

Dear Karen, Thankyou for sharing so many interesting inf.your FFF are Friday treat for us, O.Add.As a French person,of course I've heard of "l"heure bleue" by Guerlain but have never tried it..Guerlain's perfume are very expensive!I didn't know it was introduced 100y.ago.As a matter of fact I read this scene a few days ago since I started to re-read "Outlander"! so many details were forgotten!Now I'm looking fwd to July when some friends from Florida should bring me a copy of "The Outl.Companion"! Can't wait!Take care, greetings from Greece. Christiane

Karen Henry said...

knmom - That's exactly right! :-)

Gwen - I stumbled across your site while searching for pictures of porcupine skulls. :-) It turned out to be just what I was looking for, so thank you very much!

And to everybody else - thanks so much for your comments! I'm really glad you're enjoying the FFF.


Dawn said...

Hi Karen

Thanks for taking the time to do this every Friday. It goes to show the amount of research that Diana does to bring these items into her books and capture our imagination.

Sara said...

I forgot to mention that my mother wore L'Heure Bleue when I was young and I just adored it. My daughter is in Paris (on a layover) as I type, and she supposed to be hunting it down for me to see if it's cheaper there!

Anonymous said...

Ha Sara. Nothing is cheaper in Paris! lol (but when you're there, you really don't care). :-)
who is hoping to spend all next summer in France finishing a novel... >>sigh<< C'est une reve, n'est-ce pas?

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